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Not the usual bucket list

April 29, 2015 5 comments

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“Who am I?  Oh, that’s the great puzzle.”

Today I’m challenging the claim made in that famous quote from Lewis Carroll’s  Alice in Wonderland with my own newly discovered befuddler.   What do I want? Oh, that’s the great puzzle.

It’s the question a walking friend and I discussed as we summited an uphill path last week.  We weren’t talking about things.  We both meant what we wanted out of life. Neither of us answered our own question.  Maybe it was because we were at the end of our walk.  More likely it was that we didn’t feel confident that we knew.

I kept thinking about it after I returned home.   What do I want — out of life?  Hoping to find out, I made a list.   It included things I wanted to be, things I wanted to do.    Then like a child at Christmas, I began culling,  crossing off the ones that I knew in my core weren’t truly important. Two items remained: having meaningful relationships and being/doing what’s relevant.

As usual, whether I’m thinking with my fingers when writing or my feet when walking, quotes came to mind: “Do that which makes you feel most vitally alive” (William James). “You must do that which you think you cannot do  (Eleanor Roosevelt).

What makes me most vitally alive?  After relationships with family and friends — Writing.  Connecting and  communicating with people, sharing what I see as  Relevant. Through a blog, for example.  Or a book.

As many of you know, I began working several years ago on a book about oldest daughters.  I am convinced from personal experience, observation, research and interviews that the position of oldest daughters is unique in the way it impacts the three S’s in adult families — Self, Siblings, Spouses.   Relationships.

In the course of writing the book, my own oldest daughter who is a clinical psychologist specializing in women’s issues, joined me as co-author. She provides her professional perspective in our book through commentaries and questions for family reflection.   The book was finished last month.

What follows now is the search for just the right agent/publisher. It’s not what gives meaning to my life.  It’s not Writing for me.  It’s a combination of researching,  contacting,  and self-marketing.  That last is  something I’m not comfortable with.  Enter Eleanor’s mandate.  It’s not that I think I cannot do it .  It’s that I resist doing it.

So the question morphs.  Will I do What it Takes to get What I Want?

This past week a friend called, concerned about a blending of families that may be taking place in the  life of one of her children. I told her about an oldest daughter who’d become a middle child in a blended family.  “Tiffany’s” experiences, related in our book,  resonated with my friend.  The power of story.

However, such stories have no meaning unless they’re told and read.  And that won’t happen, dear Eleanor, unless I make myself fall through the looking glass into my relevant wonderland.

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Discovering a new letter

April 16, 2015 9 comments

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Of the 26 letters in our alphabet, there are two I have recently found distasteful: W and V.   Like Hester Prynne in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, I’ve discovered each of these letters pinned to my chest in the last few months and I have wanted to rip them off.

The letter W— for Widow.   Did I think ignoring or getting rid of that one would somehow change my reality???!!!

The letter V— for Vulnerable.  A word that probably most people don’t want to have attached to themselves; and oldest daughters generally— and particularly this one — really reject.

Last week I watched an interview with NY Times columnist David Brooks about his new book, The Road to Character.  One of the key points he makes is that we are all flawed and that the key to becoming a better person is identifying your weak spot.

That’s where the V word comes back in. A definite weak spot for me.  I don’t like being vulnerable.  I much prefer being in control.  Ask for help? Huh uh.   Against my nature.  Lead the way. Meet challenges and plow right on through.

But God/the universe/whatever you choose as a name knows just when to step in. And nothing subtle .  After watching the interview, I couldn’t miss a regular, morning meditation that appeared that day in my inbox with the title, Ask for Help.

For the past several months I’d been ignoring a hospice-sponsored newsletter with information about grief-support groups. My thinking:  If I called them, if I went to a meeting, I’d just be reinforcing the W and V words. I so didn’t want to do that.  But I could no longer refuse.

Yesterday I went to my first meeting.  I cried through half of it.  It was a safe place to do so.  No need to put on a “just fine” face.  Everyone there — those mourning the loss of spouses, or a daughter, a son, a  parent,  a pet — understood.  The boxes of Kleenex at each end of the long table were reached for frequently.  As were the pitchers of water.  (Did you know that there’s a need for the body to replenish the water lost through tears?)

We are all in this Together.  It’s an expression I’ve heard so many times, it had lost it’s meaning. As  had the adage, It’s by our weakness that we are made strong.

I’ll go back to the meetings.  The W and V are still on my chest.  But I’ve added a bigger one: T.